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Johnston takes over Maryland State Police barrack in Hagerstown

April 22, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Lt. Greg Johnston is hoping his fourth assignment to the Maryland State Police barrack in Hagerstown will be the charm and he'll get to stay.

"I won't be taking any more promotions so I should be here for a good while," said the new barrack commander from his office at 18345 Col. Henry Kyd Douglas Drive off Sharpsburg Pike.

Johnston took over Wednesday - the first local resident in that position since 1996 when Cecil Bittinger retired.

"I believe it is a plus that I've lived here a long time," Johnston said. "I'll be more accessible, able to respond faster to incidents, plus I'm more involved in the community."

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Johnston pointed out that his twin 10-year-old sons attend Washington County schools and his wife, Elaine, is employed by the county school system. He and his family have lived in Washington County since 1979.

Sometimes that meant Johnston had quite a commute to work, like when he worked at the McHenry barrack in Garrett County, Md., and in Pikesville, Md., and Columbia, Md.

Because he has spent so much time traveling the area highways, Johnston said he is keenly aware of how vital it is for police to promote safety and to enforce the laws of the road.

When faced with less-than-ideal manpower levels, Johnston said he believes his familiarity with all other law enforcement agencies in Washington County will greatly improve maximum efficiency.

Johnston already knows Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades (a former Maryland State Police trooper), Hagerstown Police Chief Art Smith, Hancock Police Chief Don Gossage and Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long.

And new Smithsburg Police Chief Mike Potter, also a former trooper, was once a colleague when both were stationed in Hagerstown.

"I was a Hagerstown City Police officer from 1979 to 1983," Johnston said.

After graduating from the Maryland State Police academy, Johnston went to Waldorf, Md., and then Frederick, Md., before his first assignment in Hagerstown from 1985-88.

The next two years, Johnston worked out of the Division of Corrections investigative unit at the state prisons south of Hagerstown. Assignments farther west were followed by a trip back to Baltimore and then to Hagerstown again as detective sergeant in 1993.

"From there I was commander of the statewide auto theft unit in Columbia and then back to Frederick briefly before coming to Hagerstown again in 2000 as 1st sergeant," Johnston said.

Promoted to lieutenant that same year, Johnston, now 47, worked his way back to Hagerstown via Columbia and Pikesville.

The opening for a barrack commander came on a sad note on March 6 with the death of Lt. William Lucas from cancer. Sgt. Rick Narron has been acting barrack commander in Hagerstown since then.

Remarking on his predecessors, Johnston said he doesn't see where many changes need to be made.

"There are seasoned troopers and supervisors here who know their jobs and that will make things smooth for me," Johnston said. "I trust them to be able to handle anything."

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